My friend phoned me in tears yesterday. She was breastfeeding in a restaurant when the manager asked her if she might be “more comfortable” moving to the rest-rooms. She was so overwhelmed and embarrassed that she immediately removed her new baby from her breast and did as he had asked. She spent the next half hour hiding away in the loos, struggling to feed, while her lunch got cold.
What is especially poignant about this story is that it was her first time breastfeeding in public. She is quite a shy person and had been hiding away for weeks and it was only after some gentle encouragement from friends and family that she had mustered up the courage to feed her baby away from the comfort and safety of her own home. That hideous man has totally stripped her of her confidence and no doubt she will revert to feeling embarrassed and even ashamed. It makes me want to scream thinking that she’ll now return to solely feeding at home.
So this is a plea. A plea to anyone who has ever made a breastfeeding mum feel ashamed, embarrassed or somehow abnormal.
It’s time to put yourself in her shoes/maternity bra.
Do you REALISE how hard breastfeeding is? How many hours of sweat and toil go into mastering it? I never managed it but I know from the weeks of trying and talking to fellow mamas, that it can be painful, exhausting and relentless, but even more importantly, I think, is the fact that it can be bloody lonely. At this moment there are probably thousands of women feeding at home because they are too scared to do it in public. Perhaps they haven’t quite got the hang of it and need a huge feeding pillow placed around them to rest their squirming baby on, perhaps they are struggling to get their baby to latch which means that the whole thing takes hours or maybe they’re just too embarrassed. Whatever the reason, I bet you some of these women feel very alone and are desperate to get out of the house but just haven’t got the confidence or the energy to try to tackle it in what can be a very hostile public arena.
Why can’t we get a grip and normalise breastfeeding?* Why shouldn’t a woman bring her breast-feeding pillow to a restaurant and take an hour if she needs to? Why don’t people support the struggling Mum and give her nods of approval rather than disgust and why are boobs such a taboo? They’re just boobs for goodness sake.
Oh and a message to fellow Mums. Never feel ashamed or scared to breastfeed in public. Get your whammies out and feel proud and if it takes you two hours and you need to bring along your feeding pillow then so be it. Furthermore, next time a hideous member of the public makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, squirt them in the eye with your milk**, give them the finger and carry on.
* I actually can’t believe I’m having to write this piece in 2015. I honestly thought we’d got to a point where breastfeeding was universally accepted but time and time again I hear horror stories like the one my friend told me. The mind boggles.
** If that member of the public happens to be Katie Hopkins then perhaps sit next to her, get both breasts out and give her a massive/slightly crazy grin. I’d LOVE to see her reaction to that!